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Feature Article
June 2004


Video Promotes Good Chemistry at Dow

How does a multinational corporation employing tens of thousands of people and operating in more than 180 countries stay in touch with customer needs and keep employees connected? If that company is Dow, it uses state-of-the-art video conferencing solutions.

 

Dow is a leading science and technology company that provides innovative chemical, plastic, and agricultural products and services. With 46,000 employees and annual sales of $33 billion, Dow serves customers in more than 180 countries. And, according to Chris Duncan, Dow�s Global Leader for E-Communication Technology, due to its size and scope, the company was faced with a serious communications challenge.


�Dow started implementing video conferencing in the early nineties to improve communications among its executives spread across the different regions of the world,� explains Duncan. �As the company continued to expand its global operations, video became even more critical for enabling dispersed groups to work together.�


When the company transitioned from a regional organization a few years later to a global business model, video began to play an even bigger role. In this new organizational structure, any given employee could be managed by a supervisor who lived in another state or even another country.

 

VIDEO AT WORK

�Video is good for companies and employees,� says Duncan. �Helping people avoid travel increases their quality of life and makes them happier to work at Dow.�


Video is used at the company every day for everything from connecting business units whose members are spread out all over the world, to general update meetings. It�s also vital for ensuring consistent practices across business areas.


�We connect the Dow purchasing staff at 32 sites quarterly so they can be sure they are all using the same work processes and approaches for things like vendor selection and sourcing,� adds Duncan. �In a company this size, it�s vital to have consistent processes in place.�


Dow also recently brought together its global legal team, located at 43 different sites, over video. This kind of face-to-face interaction would have been impossible without video. And on another occasion, video reduced what would have been a three-week round the world business trip to just two days of virtual meetings. When the new Public Affairs Director took over at Dow, she gained responsibility for employees located in 13 countries. Travel restraints at Dow and her two elementary school-aged children prevented her from making the three-week trip to meet with her new team and communicate her vision. Using video, she was able to connect with all of her employees, getting them up to speed and aligned with her goals in a matter of days instead of weeks.Video is also considered a critical communications tool as part of the company�s emergency communications plan. It played a major role directly after 9/11, connecting Dow with its employees dispersed and stranded all over the world.
 

THE BOTTOM LINE
�It goes without saying that the travel cost savings for Dow are significant, but the real value of video is in the intangibles, like increased productivity, faster decision making, and work-life balance,� says Duncan.


Duncan himself is a prime example. Thanks to video conferencing, he�s able to coach his son�s baseball team because he doesn�t have to travel for meetings.

 

ENABLING COLLABORATION
Dow currently has 488 Polycom iPower video collaboration systems installed all over the world. When the deployment is complete in the next few months, it will total 560 iPower systems. Dow leverages the People+Content functionality of the iPower solution for data collaboration during its video conferences.


�At Dow, meetings tend to be very data driven, the ability to collaborate seamlessly over the iPower systems is very important,� adds Duncan.
 

For video conferences that connect more than one site, Dow has deployed 17 Polycom MGC multipoint control units (MCU). The MGC also acts as a gateway for calls outside of Dow�s converged IP network to connect to ISDN-based video systems. All of the MGC MCUs are centrally managed through Polycom WebCommander from Dow�s Midland, MI headquarters.


�We decided to bring multipoint calling in-house for the obvious cost savings, but also for tighter security. We didn�t want an external supplier responsible for the security of our entire converged network,� says Duncan. �And using WebCommander to manage the MGC bridges from Midland works very well. By controlling the operation here, I don�t have to have IT resources all over the world for this function.�

LOOKING FORWARD
In the coming months, Dow Chemical will be evaluating Polycom�s ViaVideo desktop video appliance for hundreds of desktops throughout the company. First on its list is the Dow field sales group.


�Field sales is clamoring to get video,� says Duncan. �Not only will it help them stay connected to the company since they work at remote locations, probably 50 percent of their customers have video, so it gives them another way to communicate with their audience.�


The company is also planning to enhance its employee communications with streaming video to all 40,000 Dow desktop PCs. Polycom�s iPower will play an important part, acting as a source for the streaming.


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